News Release

New Geology articles published online ahead of print in May

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Geological Society of America

Boulder, Colo., USA: Article topics include Zealandia, Earth's newly recognized continent; the topography of Scandinavia; an interfacial energy penalty; major disruptions in North Atlantic circulation; the Great Bahama Bank; Pityusa Patera, Mars; the end-Permian extinction; and Tongariro and Ruapehu volcanoes, New Zealand. These Geology articles are online at

Mass balance controls on sediment scour and bedrock erosion in waterfall plunge pools
Joel S. Scheingross; Michael P. Lamb

Abstract: Waterfall plunge pools experience cycles of sediment aggradation and scour that modulate bedrock erosion, habitat availability, and hazard potential. We calculate sediment flux divergence to evaluate the conditions under which pools deposit and scour sediment by comparing the sediment transport capacities of waterfall plunge pools (Qsc_pool) and their adjacent river reaches (Qsc_river). Results show that pools fill with sediment at low river discharge because the waterfall jet is not strong enough to transport the supplied sediment load out of the pool. As discharge increases, the waterfall jet strengthens, allowing pools to transport sediment at greater rates than in adjacent river reaches. This causes sediment scour from pools and bar building at the downstream pool boundary. While pools may be partially emptied of sediment at modest discharge, floods with recurrence intervals >10 yr are typically required for pools to scour to bedrock. These results allow new constraints on paleodischarge estimates made from sediment deposited in plunge pool bars and suggest that bedrock erosion at waterfalls with plunge pools occurs during larger floods than in river reaches lacking waterfalls.

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Pace, magnitude, and nature of terrestrial climate change through the end-Permian extinction in southeastern Gondwana
T.D. Frank; C.R. Fielding; A.M.E. Winguth; K. Savatic; A. Tevyaw ...

Abstract: Rapid climate change was a major contributor to the end-Permian extinction (EPE). Although well constrained for the marine realm, relatively few records document the pace, nature, and magnitude of climate change across the EPE in terrestrial environments. We generated proxy records for chemical weathering and land surface temperature from continental margin deposits of the high-latitude southeastern margin of Gondwana. Regional climate simulations provide additional context. Results show that Glossopteris forest-mire ecosystems collapsed during a pulse of intense chemical weathering and peak warmth, which capped ~1 m.y. of gradual warming and intensification of seasonality. Erosion resulting from loss of vegetation was short lived in the low-relief landscape. Earliest Triassic climate was ~10-14 °C warmer than the late Lopingian and landscapes were no longer persistently wet. Aridification, commonly linked to the EPE, developed gradually, facilitating the persistence of refugia for moisture-loving terrestrial groups.

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Controls on andesitic glaciovolcanism at ice-capped volcanoes from field and experimental studies
R.P. Cole; J.D.L. White; T. Dürig; R. Büttner; B. Zimanowski ...

Abstract: Glaciovolcanic deposits at Tongariro and Ruapehu volcanoes, New Zealand, represent diverse styles of interaction between wet-based glaciers and andesitic lava. There are ice-confined lavas, and also hydroclastic breccia and subaqueous pyroclastic deposits that formed during effusive and explosive eruptions into meltwater beneath the glacier; they are rare among globally reported products of andesitic glaciovolcanism. The apparent lack of hydrovolcanically fragmented andesite at ice-capped volcanoes has been attributed to a lack of meltwater at the interaction sites because either the thermal characteristics of andesite limit meltwater production or meltwater drains out through leaky glaciers and down steep volcano slopes. We used published field evidence and novel, dynamic andesite-ice experiments to show that, in some cases, meltwater accumulates under glaciers on andesitic volcanoes and that meltwater production rates increase as andesite pushes against an ice wall. We concur with models for eruptions beneath ice sheets showing that the glacial conditions and pre-eruption edifice morphology are more important controls on the style of glaciovolcanism and its products than magma composition and the thermal properties of magmas. Glaciovolcanic products can be useful proxies for paleoenvironment, and the range of andesitic products and the hydrological environments in which andesite erupts are greater than hitherto appreciated.

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How cementation and fluid flow influence slip behavior at the subduction interface
J.N. Hooker; D.M. Fisher

Abstract: Much of the complexity of subduction-zone earthquake size and temporal patterns owes to linkages among fluid flow, stress, and fault healing. To investigate these linkages, we introduce a novel numerical model that tracks cementation and fluid flow within the framework of an earthquake simulator. In the model, there are interseismic increases in cohesion across the plate boundary and decreases in porosity and permeability caused by cementation along the interface. Seismogenic slip is sensitive to the effective stress and therefore fluid pressure; in turn, slip events increase porosity by fracturing. The model therefore accounts for positive and negative feedbacks that modify slip behavior through the seismic cycle. The model produces temporal clustering of earthquakes in the seismic record of the Aleutian margin, which has well-documented along-strike variations in locking characteristics. Model results illustrate how physical, geochemical, and hydraulic linkages can affect natural slip behavior. Specifically, coseismic drops in fluid pressure steal energy from large ruptures, suppress slip, moderate the magnitudes of large earthquakes, and lead to aftershocks.

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Conservative transport of dissolved sulfate across the Rio Madre de Dios floodplain in Peru
Emily I. Burt; Markus Bill; Mark E. Conrad; Adan Julian Ccahuana Quispe; John N. Christensen ...

Abstract: Mineral weathering plays a primary role in the geologic carbon cycle. Silicate weathering by carbonic acid consumes CO2 and stabilizes Earth's climate system. However, when sulfuric acid drives weathering, CO2 can be released to the atmosphere. Recent work has established that sulfuric acid weathering resulting from sulfide mineral oxidation is globally significant and particularly important in rapidly eroding environments. In contrast, if SO42- produced by sulfide oxidation is reduced during continental transit, then CO2 release may be negated. Yet, little is known about how much SO42- reduction takes place in terrestrial environments. We report oxygen and sulfur stable isotope ratios of SO42- in river waters and mass budget calculations, which together suggest that SO42- released from pyrite oxidation in the Peruvian Andes mountains is conservatively exported across ~300 km of the Amazon floodplain. In this system, floodplain SO42- reduction does not counteract the large SO42- flux from Andean pyrite weathering or measurably affect the stable isotope composition of riverine SO42-. These findings support the hypothesis that uplift and erosion of sedimentary rocks drive release of CO2 from the rock reservoir to the atmosphere.

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First U-Pb dating of fossilized soft tissue using a new approach to paleontological chronometry
Heriberto Rochín-Bañaga; Donald W. Davis; Tobias Schwennicke

Abstract: Previous U-Pb dating of fossils has had only limited success because of low uranium content and abundance of common Pb as well as element mobility during late diagenesis. We report the first accurate U-Pb dating of fossilized soft tissue from a Pliocene phosphatized bivalve mold using laser ablation-inductively coupled mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS). The fossilized soft tissue yields a diagenetic U-Pb age of 3.16 ± 0.08 Ma, which is consistent with its late Pliocene stratigraphy and similar to the oldest U-Pb age measured on accompanying shark teeth. Phosphate extraclasts give a distinctly older age of 5.1 ± 1.7 Ma, indicating that they are likely detrital and may have furnished P, promoting phosphatization of the mold. The U-Pb ages reported here along with stratigraphic constraints suggest that diagenesis occurred shortly after the death of the bivalve and that the U-Pb system in the bivalve mold remained closed until the present. Shark teeth collected from the same horizon show variable resetting due to late diagenesis. Data were acquired as line scans in order to exploit the maximum Pb/U variation and were regressed as counts, rather than ratios, in three-dimensional space using a Bayesian statistical method.

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Direct measurement of fungal contribution to silicate weathering rates in soil
Bastien Wild; Gwenaël Imfeld; Damien Daval

Abstract: Chemical weathering produces solutes that control groundwater chemistry and supply ecosystems with essential nutrients. Although microbial activity influences silicate weathering rates and associated nutrient fluxes, its relative contribution to silicate weathering in natural settings remains largely unknown. We provide the first quantitative estimates of in situ silicate weathering rates that account for microbially induced dissolution and identify microbial actors associated with weathering. Nanoscale topography measurements showed that fungi colonizing olivine [(Mg,Fe)2SiO4] samples in a Mg-deficient forest soil accounted for up to 16% of the weathering flux after 9 mo of incubation. A local increase in olivine weathering rate was measured and attributed to fungal hyphae of Verticillium sp. Altogether, this approach provides quantitative parameters of bioweathering (i.e., rates and actors) and opens new avenues to improve elemental budgets in natural settings.

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Detrital chromites reveal Slave craton's missing komatiite
Rasmus Haugaard; Pedro Waterton; Luke Ootes; D. Graham Pearson; Yan Luo ...

Abstract: Komatiitic magmatism is a characteristic feature of Archean cratons, diagnostic of the addition of juvenile crust, and a clue to the thermal evolution of early Earth lithosphere. The Slave craton in northwest Canada contains >20 greenstone belts but no identified komatiite. The reason for this dearth of komatiite, when compared to other Archean cratons, remains enigmatic. The Central Slave Cover Group (ca. 2.85 Ga) includes fuchsitic quartzite with relict detrital chromite grains in heavy-mineral laminations. Major and platinum group element systematics indicate that the chromites were derived from Al-undepleted komatiitic dunites. The chromites have low 187Os/188Os ratios relative to chondrite with a narrow range of rhenium depletion ages at 3.19 ± 0.12 Ga. While these ages overlap a documented crust formation event, they identify an unrecognized addition of juvenile crust that is not preserved in the bedrock exposures or the zircon isotopic data. The documentation of komatiitic magmatism via detrital chromites indicates a region of thin lithospheric mantle at ca. 3.2 Ga, either within or at the edge of the protocratonic nucleus. This study demonstrates the applicability of detrital chromites in provenance studies, augmenting the record supplied by detrital zircons.

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Pityusa Patera, Mars: Structural analyses suggest a mega-caldera above a magma chamber at the crust-mantle interface
Hannes Bernhardt; David A. Williams

Abstract: Pityusa Patera is the southernmost of four paterae in the 1.2 × 106 km2 wrinkle-ridged plains-dominated Malea Planum region of Mars. Based on their texture, morphology, and uniqueness to Pityusa Patera, we interpret layered, folded massifs as pyroclastic deposits emplaced during patera formation as a collapse caldera. Such deposits would not be expected in a previously suggested scenario of patera formation by subsidence from lithospheric loading. Our structural measurements and modeling indicate that the folding and high relief of the massifs resulted from ~1.3%-6.9% of shortening, which we show to be a reasonable value for a central plug sagging down into an assumed piston-type caldera. According to a previously published axisymmetric finite-element model, the extent of shortening structures on a caldera floor relative to its total diameter is controlled by the roof depth of the collapsed magma chamber beneath it, which would imply Pityusa Patera formed above a chamber at 57.5-69 km depth. We interpret this value to indicate a magma chamber at the crust-mantle interface, which is in agreement with crust-penetrating ring fractures and mantle flows expected from the formation of the Hellas basin. As such, the folded massifs in Pityusa Patera, which are partially superposed by ca. 3.8 Ga wrinkle-ridged plains, should consist of primordial mantle material, a theory that might be assessed by future hyperspectral observations. In conclusion, we do not favor a formation by load-induced lithospheric subsidence but suggest Pityusa Patera to be one of the oldest extant volcanic landforms on Mars and one of the largest calderas in the solar system, which makes the folded, likely mantle-derived deposits on its floor a prime target for future exploration.

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Evidence for iron-rich sulfate melt during magnetite(-apatite) mineralization at El Laco, Chile
Wyatt M. Bain; Matthew Steele-MacInnis; Fernando Tornos; John M. Hanchar; Emily C. Creaser ...

Abstract: The origins of Kiruna-type magnetite(-apatite) [Mt(-Ap)] deposits are contentious, with existing models ranging from purely hydrothermal to orthomagmatic end members. Here, we evaluate the compositions of fluids that formed the classic yet enigmatic Mt(-Ap) deposit at El Laco, northern Chile. We report evidence that ore-stage minerals crystallized from an Fe-rich (6-17 wt% Fe) sulfate melt. We suggest that a major component of the liquid was derived from assimilation of evaporite-bearing sedimentary rocks during emplacement of andesitic magma at depth. Hence, we argue that assimilation of evaporite-bearing sedimentary strata played a key role in the formation of El Laco and likely Mt(-Ap) deposits elsewhere.

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Surface-wave tomography of the Emeishan large igneous province (China): Magma storage system, hidden hotspot track, and its impact on the Capitanian mass extinction
Yiduo Liu; Lun Li; Jolante van Wijk; Aibing Li; Yuanyuan V. Fu

Abstract: Large igneous provinces (LIPs) are commonly associated with mass extinctions. However, the precise relations between LIPs and their impacts on biodiversity is enigmatic, given that they can be asynchronous. It has been proposed that the environmental impacts are primarily related to sill emplacement. Therefore, the structure of LIPs' magma storage system is critical because it dictates the occurrence and timing of mass extinction. We use surface-wave tomography to image the lithosphere under the Permian Emeishan large igneous province (ELIP) in southwestern China. We find a northeast-trending zone of high shear-wave velocity (Vs) and negative radial anisotropy (Vsv > Vsh; v and h are vertically and horizontally polarized S waves, respectively) in the crust and lithosphere. We rule out the possibilities of rifting or orogenesis to explain these seismic characteristics and interpret the seismic anomaly as a mafic-ultramafic, dike-dominated magma storage system of the ELIP. We further propose that the anomaly represents a hidden hotspot track that was emplaced before the ELIP eruption. A zone of higher velocity but less-negative radial anisotropy, on the hotspot track but to the northeast of the eruption center in the Panxi region, reflects an elevated proportion of sills emplaced at the incipient stage of the ELIP. Liberation of poisonous gases by the early sill intrusions explains why the mid-Capitanian global biota crisis preceded the peak ELIP eruption by 2-3 m.y.

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Diverse marine fish assemblages inhabited the paleotropics during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum
Sanaa El-Sayed; Matt Friedman; Tarek Anan; Mahmoud A. Faris; Hesham Sallam

Abstract: The Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) was a short interval (120-220 k.y.) of elevated global temperatures, but it is important for understanding biotic responses to climatic warming. Consequences of the PETM for marine fishes remain unclear, despite evidence that they might have been particularly vulnerable to increasing temperatures. Part of this uncertainty reflects a lack of data on marine fishes across a range of latitudes at the time. We report a new paleotropical (~12°N paleolatitude) fish fauna from the Dababiya Quarry Member of Egypt dating to the PETM. This assemblage--Ras Gharib A--is a snapshot of a time when tropical sea-surface temperatures approached limits lethal for many modern fishes. Despite extreme conditions, the Ras Gharib A fauna is compositionally similar to well-known, midlatitude Lagerstätten from the PETM or later in the Eocene. The Ras Gharib A fauna shows that diverse fish communities thrived in the paleotropics during the PETM, that these assemblages shared elements with coeval assemblages at higher latitudes, and that some taxa had broad latitudinal ranges substantially exceeding those found during cooler intervals.

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Facies control on carbonate δ13C on the Great Bahama Bank
Emily C. Geyman; Adam C. Maloof

Abstract: The carbon isotopic (δ13C) composition of shallow-water carbonates often is interpreted to reflect the δ13C of the global ocean and is used as a proxy for changes in the global carbon cycle. However, local platform processes, in addition to meteoric and marine diagenesis, may decouple carbonate δ13C from that of the global ocean. We present new δ13C measurements of benthic foraminifera, solitary corals, calcifying green algae, ooids, coated grains, and lime mud from the modern Great Bahama Bank. We find that vital effects, cross-shelf seawater chemistry gradients, and meteoric diagenesis produce carbonate with δ13C variability rivaling that of the past two billion years of Earth history. Leveraging Walther's Law, we illustrate how these local δ13C signals can find their way into the stratigraphic record of bulk carbonate.

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Quantifying bankfull flow width using preserved bar clinoforms from fluvial strata
Evan Greenberg; Vamsi Ganti; Elizabeth Hajek

Abstract: Reconstruction of active channel geometry from fluvial strata is critical to constrain the water and sediment fluxes in ancient terrestrial landscapes. Robust methods--grounded in extensive field observations, numerical simulations, and physical experiments--exist for estimating the bankfull flow depth and channel-bed slope from preserved deposits; however, we lack similar tools to quantify bankfull channel widths. We combined high-resolution lidar data from 134 meander bends across 11 rivers that span over two orders of magnitude in size to develop a robust, empirical relation between the bankfull channel width and channel-bar clinoform width (relict stratigraphic surfaces of bank-attached channel bars). We parameterized the bar cross-sectional shape using a two-parameter sigmoid, defining bar width as the cross-stream distance between 95% of the asymptotes of the fit sigmoid. We combined this objective definition of the bar width with Bayesian linear regression analysis to show that the measured bankfull flow width is 2.34 ± 0.13 times the channel-bar width. We validated our model using field measurements of channel-bar and bankfull flow widths of meandering rivers that span all climate zones (R2 = 0.79) and concurrent measurements of channel-bar clinoform width and mud-plug width in fluvial strata (R2 = 0.80). We also show that the transverse bed slopes of bars are inversely correlated with bend curvature, consistent with theory. Results provide a simple, usable metric to derive paleochannel width from preserved bar clinoforms.

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Revisiting stepwise ocean oxygenation with authigenic barium enrichments in marine mudrocks
Guang-Yi Wei; Hong-Fei Ling; Graham A. Shields; Simon V. Hohl; Tao Yang ...

Abstract: There are current debates around the extent of global ocean oxygenation, particularly from the late Neoproterozoic to the early Paleozoic, based on analyses of various geochemical indices. We present a temporal trend in excess barium (Baexcess) contents in marine organic-rich mudrocks (ORMs) to provide an independent constraint on global ocean redox evolution. The absence of remarkable Baexcess enrichments in Precambrian (>ca. 541 Ma) ORMs suggests limited authigenic Ba formation in oxygen- and sulfate-deficient oceans. By contrast, in the Paleozoic, particularly the early Cambrian, ORMs are marked by significant Baexcess enrichments, corresponding to substantial increases in the marine sulfate reservoir and oxygenation level. Analogous to modern sediments, the Mesozoic and Cenozoic ORMs exhibit no prominent Baexcess enrichments. We suggest that variations in Baexcess concentrations of ORMs through time are linked to secular changes in the marine dissolved Ba reservoir associated with elevated marine sulfate levels and global ocean oxygenation. Further, unlike Mo, U, and Re abundances, significant Baexcess enrichments in ORMs indicate that the overall ocean oxygenation level in the early Paleozoic was substantially lower than at present.

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Widespread glacial erosion on the Scandinavian passive margin
Vivi K. Pedersen; Åsne Rosseland Knutsen; Gustav Pallisgaard-Olesen; Jane Lund Andersen; Robert Moucha ...

Abstract: The topography in Scandinavia features enigmatic high-elevation low-relief plateau regions dissected by deep valleys and fjords. These plateau regions have long been interpreted as relict landforms of a preglacial origin, whereas recent studies suggest they have been modified significantly by glacial and periglacial denudation. We used late Pliocene-Quaternary source-to-sink analyses to untangle this scientific conundrum. We compared glacier-derived offshore sediment volumes with estimates of erosion in onshore valleys and fjords and on the inner shelf. Our results suggest that onshore valley and fjord erosion falls 61%-66% short of the offshore sink volume. Erosion on the inner shelf cannot accommodate this mismatch, implying that the entire Scandinavian landscape and adjacent shelf have experienced significant glacial erosion.

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Clay minerals modulate early carbonate diagenesis
N. Tanner Mills; Julia S. Reece; Michael M. Tice

Abstract: Early diagenetic precipitation of authigenic carbonate has been a globally significant carbon sink throughout Earth history. In particular, SO42- and Fe3+ reduction and CH4 production create conditions in pore fluids that promote carbonate mineral precipitation; however, these conditions may be modified by the presence of acid-base buffers such as clay minerals. We integrated the acid-base properties of clay minerals into a biogeochemical model that predicts the evolution of pore-water pH and carbonate mineral saturation during O2, Fe3+, and SO42- reduction and CH4 production. Key model inputs were obtained using two natural clay mineral-rich sediments from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program as well as from literature. We found that clay minerals can enhance carbonate mineral saturation during O2 and SO42- reduction and moderate saturation during Fe3+ reduction and CH4 production if the pore-fluid pH and clay mineral pKa values are within ~2 log units of one another. We therefore suggest that clay minerals could significantly modify the environmental conditions and settings in which early diagenetic carbonate precipitation occurs. In Phanerozoic marine sediments--where O2 and SO42- have been the main oxidants of marine sedimentary organic carbon--clay minerals have likely inhibited carbonate dissolution and promoted precipitation of authigenic carbonate.

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The interfacial energy penalty to crystal growth close to equilibrium
Fred Gaidies; Freya R. George

Abstract: Understanding the origin of rock microstructure is critical for refining models of the geodynamics of the Earth. We use the geometry of compositional growth zoning of a population of garnet porphyroblasts in a mica schist to gain quantitative insight into (1) the relative growth rates of individual crystals, (2) the departure from equilibrium during their growth, and (3) the mobility of the porphyroblast-matrix interface. The driving force for garnet growth in the studied sample was exceedingly small and is comparable in magnitude to the interfacial energy associated with the garnet-matrix interface. This resulted in size-dependent garnet growth at macroscopic length scales, with a decrease in radial growth rates for smaller crystals caused by the penalty effect of the interfacial energy. The difference in growth rate between the largest and the smallest crystal is ~45%, and the interface mobility for garnet growth from ~535 °C, 480 MPa to 565 °C, 560 MPa in the phyllosilicate-dominated rock matrix ranged between ~10-19 and 10-20 m4 J-1 s-1. This is the first estimation of interface mobility in natural rock samples. In addition to the complex structural and chemical reorganization associated with the formation of dodecahedral coordination polyhedra in garnet, the presence of abundant graphite may have exerted drag on the garnet-matrix interface, further decreasing its mobility.

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A hidden Rodinian lithospheric keel beneath Zealandia, Earth's newly recognized continent
R.E. Turnbull; J.J. Schwartz; M.L. Fiorentini; R. Jongens; N.J. Evans ...

Abstract: We present a data set of >1500 in situ O-Hf-U-Pb zircon isotope analyses that document the existence of a concealed Rodinian lithospheric keel beneath continental Zealandia. The new data reveal the presence of a distinct isotopic domain of Paleozoic-Mesozoic plutonic rocks that contain zircon characterized by anomalously low δ18O values (median = +4.1‰) and radiogenic εHf(t) (median = +6.1). The scale (>10,000 km2) and time span (>>250 m.y.) over which plutonic rocks with this anomalously low-δ18O signature were emplaced appear unique in a global context, especially for magmas generated and emplaced along a continental margin. Calculated crustal-residence ages (depleted mantle model, TDM) for this low-δ18O isotope domain range from 1300 to 500 Ma and are interpreted to represent melting of a Precambrian lithospheric keel that was formed and subsequently hydrothermally altered during Rodinian assembly and rifting. Recognition of a concealed Precambrian lithosphere beneath Zealandia and the uniqueness of the pervasive low-δ18O isotope domain link Zealandia to South China, providing a novel test of specific hypotheses of continental block arrangements within Rodinia.

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Immediate temperature response in northern Iberia to last deglacial changes in the North Atlantic
J.L. Bernal-Wormull; A. Moreno; C. Pérez-Mejías; M. Bartolomé; A. Aranburu ...

Abstract: Major disruptions in the North Atlantic circulation during the last deglaciation triggered a series of climate feedbacks that influenced the course of Termination I, suggesting an almost synchronous response in the ocean-atmosphere system. We present a replicated δ18O stalagmite record from Ostolo cave in the northern Iberian Peninsula with a robust chronological framework that continuously covers the last deglaciation (18.5-10.5 kyr B.P.). The Ostolo δ18O record, unlike other speleothem records in the region that were related to humidity changes, closely tracks the well-known high-latitude temperature evolution, offering important insights into the structure of the last deglaciation in the Northern Hemisphere. In addition, this new record is accompanied by a clear signal of the expected cooling events associated with the deglacial disruptions in North Atlantic deep convection during Heinrich event 1.

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